Bill Bates

Joined June 2017Living in: San Jose, United States
  • Day29

    US Border Fence - California Desert

    July 15, 2017 in the United States

    Not too far west of Felicity, the highway gets within a hundred yards or so of the US-Mexico border. You can see the boarder fence stretching for miles with a bit of a no man's land between it and the road.

    We did find a spot where you could drive almost right up to the fence. I wanted to get out and walk up to it, but I was too chicken. There were all kinds of signs saying it was a permit area and no trespassing. There were also cameras watching, so we didn't want to chance getting in trouble. I know, wimpy. 🙃

    Who needs a transparent wall when we have this great fence. I am not sure what innocent bystander is going to get killed by flying 60 pound bags of drugs in the middle of the desert, but you can see through the fence already. Thank goodness. Try as we might, though, we couldn't spot one bag of drugs. Maybe next time.
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  • Day29

    Center of the World - Felicity, CA

    July 15, 2017 in the United States

    In the hot sands of the desert just west of Yuma, you will find Felicity California. It's official population is somewhere around 3. There you will find the official center of the world (as agreed upon by both California and France... yes, you read that right).

    We didn't actually get to see the true center of the world. It was inside a pyramid that was locked. We didn't see anyone there and the museum and gift shop were shut. We were probably trespassing, but we walked around the complex anyway. It was 105 degrees and we would not be deterred!

    It is really hard to explain the eclectic nature of the place. Just past the pyramid, is a field with lots of long granite wedges with carvings on them. They relate the history of humanity. There are hundreds of panels, many not yet carved upon.

    Past the history in granite is the town church on the hill. It was also locked, but we could see inside of it.

    There was also some sort of maze, which was locked up and a spiral staircase going nowhere. It turns out the staircase was part of the original staircase from the Eiffel Tower. What the heck????

    Oh, I almost forget. In the middle of the history of humanity in granite field, is a replica of the Liberty Bell at one half scale. It was little Pence size. 😊

    The Mayor and founder of the town apparently wrote a children's book that helped convince California and France to officially recognize Felicity as the center of the world.

    This was our last strange stop of our trip and it was a doozy! I dragged Jenn and the kids to it, but they all agreed it was worth it, even at 105 degrees. 😉
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  • Day28

    End of Day 28 - Tucson, AZ

    July 14, 2017 in the United States

    Day 28 Miles: 558.8
    Total Miles: 8,184.4
    States: 28
    Countries: 2

    Our new second longest travel day. We added Arizona and New Mexico to our list of states today. However, we already counted Arizona on the way out. New Mexico is our last new state of the trip. That brings our final total to 28. Not too shabby. We also drove through two time zones today and gained two hours.

    The Comfort Inn in Tucson was probably the worst of the bunch. The floor we were on smelled terrible. The room did too and the AC didn't work. So, we got our room switched. The room still smelled a bit, but the floor we were on did not.

    We were bushed, so we ordered pizza delivery and watched some West Wing. 😊
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  • Day28

    Chamizal National Memorial - El Paso, TX

    July 14, 2017 in the United States

    The Chamizal National Memorial is right in the boarder between the US and Mexico. Sitting within sight of the Bridge of the Americas connecting El Paso with Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. We decided against going over the boarder to add another country to our list. The traffic coming back in was terrible. There is another bridge named Bridge of the Americas in Panama.

    The Chamizal National Memorial was really nice, but absolutely empty. There was a little island of Mexico surrounded by the US. There had been markers all over letting you know when you crossed into a different country. There were boarder disputes between the US and Mexico for years. Part of the problem was using the Rio Grande river as the boarder. Rivers change over time between erosion and flooding. The boarder was agreed on paper, but it is a whole other thing to then survey and actually mark it.

    President Kennedy started the process of fixing the disputes. After his assassination, President Johnson finished it. The little island of Chamizal was now in America.

    Inside, we met Saul the ranger. He was dying to talk to somebody. He told us a lot of the history. Every time we tried to leave, he popped up to tell us more information. It was really nice inside. It may be the nicest national memorial that no one goes to. They do have an outdoor stage and have free concerts during the summer. Sadly, the gift shop was closed because of mice.

    The mural outside has three presidents: Kennedy, Johnson and Obama. They are the only three presidents to visit Chamizal.
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  • Day28

    Day 28 - Heading out of Texas

    July 14, 2017 in the United States

    After 900 miles of driving and an exciting night, we will finally exit Texas later today. Whew...

    It was a. Ice goodbye to see Texas shaped waffles at breakfast. 😊On the way out, we saw a sign for a buffet. Casey and Quinn wondered what dragon tastes like...

  • Day27

    End of Day 27 - Fort Stockton, TX

    July 13, 2017 in the United States

    Day 27 Miles: 525.9
    Total Miles: 7,625.6
    States: 27
    Countries: 2

    We covered over 500 miles today and we didn't add any states to our list! Texas is huge!!! We had quite an adventure today. We can laugh about it now.

    Fort Stockton isn't much to speak of. The Comfort Suites was the worst one we have stayed at so far. In general, the Comfort Suites have been decent. For a low end hotel, we have been pleased. The one in Fort Stockton is garbage. Dirty, stained furniture and carpets and a really weird bathroom. The tub has some odd brown covering. Probably to make it non-slip, but it doesn't work. The shower walls are two slabs of something that are not quite fit together right.

    Oh, well. What do you expect for the price? 😊
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  • Day27

    Desert Cat - Somewhere in West Texas

    July 13, 2017 in the United States

    Ok, we had an adventure tonight. We almost ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere west Texas. There is not much out there and if you don't plan it right, you can be stuck between gas stations. It was almost 9pm and dark... really dark.

    Luckily we found a town (about 12 miles after the light came on), Sheffield. There are no gas stations, but there is a towing company that had gas. We were able to get a hold of them and drive to their lot. They wanted $12/gallon. What can you do? Ah, wait... We noticed on Yelp that they were AAA. So, we used the AAA app (there was spotty reception, but just enough) and put in a roadside request. They contacted the towing company and we got 3 gallons and AAA paid them $7.

    That was enough to get us to the next gas station, about 30 miles away. Ok, it turns out that in our 2007 Odyssey, we have 3.01 gallons left when the light comes on. We have been getting about 20 miles/gallon this trip. We could have made it to the gas station without the drama. Pro tip: know this before you go on a road trip. 😉

    There was pretty much nothing around besides the spooky looking Exxon. No one was there, but the pumps were on.

    While I was filling up, this little kitten ran up to the kids. She was very skittish, but stayed near. Our hears broke. We wanted to take the kitty, but knew we couldn't. We left her some water. The saddest thing was looking back to see the little desert kitty sitting alone under the sad little light at the gas station. 🙁
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  • Day27

    San Antonio River Walk

    July 13, 2017 in the United States

    The river walk was not as we remembered. It didn't seem as pretty. Honestly, it smelled. It has the feel of something that used to be cute, but has gotten old and was not taken care of well. Don't get me wrong, it is nice enough, but darker than I remember. There are some nice shops and restaurants, but we weren't impressed.

    We realized the kids had never been to a Hard Rock Cafe. We tried to explain they were the cool place to visit, back in the day. Casey and Quinn were still unimpressed.

    We were a bit let down over the river walk, but still worth the stroll.
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  • Day27

    The Alamo - San Antonio, TX

    July 13, 2017 in the United States

    The Alamo was great experience. Jenn and I visited it back on our cross country road trip in '96. The area is more built up than it was back then. No surprise.

    This time, there was an audio tour. I thought they did a very good job with it and I recommend the audio experience.

    Growing up I didn't care much for westerns, but I was always captivated by the story of the Alamo. I loved Davy Crocket. So, visiting the Alamo was a dream come true. Sharing it with my kids was even sweeter. 😊

    There is more to the phrase "Remember the Alamo." After the defeat at the Alamo at the hands of Santa Ana, there was another setback in the battle for Texas independence. The rebel Texans had seized Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahía, which they renamed Fort Defiance. Three weeks after the massacre at the Alamo, Santa Ana marched of Ft. Defiance. General Sam Houston had given the order to evacuate weeks earlier, but his orders were not obeyed. By the time the 400 soldiers and civilians evacuated, it was too late. They were captured, marched back to Goliad and executed. Known as The Goliad Massacre, it was the biggest in the battle for Texan independence. Around 180 to 200 people died at the Alamo. The cries of, "Remember the Alamo" and "Remember Goliad" gave strength to the rebels. Now, Goliad is forgotten to most.

    There was a special Jim Bowie exhibit. Pronounced Boo-ee not like David Bowie. I had not realized that he was a jerk. He made a fortune smuggling slaves into the US after it had been banned and selling hem. He also sold people land he didn't own. By the time he got caught and the US Supreme Court ruled against him, he had left Louisiana and gone to Texas where he became a Mexican citizen. Some history books call him a land speculator, but he cheated people out of their money, plain and simple. Not a good guy. Although, he sure could fight with a knife.

    We did see one of his Bowie knives on display. The display case was awesome. It had an overlay touch screen. So, you could see the actual knife on display but touch parts of the screen to bring up more information. Of course the tech part of me geeked out. In the picture gallery for this post I have a video of Quinn using one of the touch display cases.

    While in the Bowie exhibit, we got caught up with Robert, one of the docents. I say "got caught up" because it turned into one of those awkward conversations that would not end! The conversation turned into how much he wanted Atlanta to beat the Patriots. It then took a strange turn and he told us how he couldn't bring his backpack into his favorite restaurant any more. What the heck???

    Back to the Alamo... We also saw, among other relics and artifacts, one of Davy Crockett's rifles and Lt. Col. William Travis' sword.

    While we were headed to the gift shop, the heavens opened and it poured for 15-20 minutes. Then it cleared up just as quickly as it started.
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  • Day27

    Day 27 - Alamo or Bust...

    July 13, 2017 in the United States

    Waking up in Houston, it was hot! It was already 89 degrees at 9am! We stayed at a Hampton Inn by Hilton and due to the points we accumulated along the way, it was a free night! Jenn now has status! 😊

    The hotel was great, but in a strange location. It was right next to a neighborhood. The view from our room's window was into the back yard of the neighbors. 😯

    As we traveled to San Antonio, we stopped for gas at a place that had an automatic smoothy machine. Q really wanted to try it, but it was out of order. We found a good candy bar for Casey. You can see it in the gallery. 😉
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